Thank you for viewing this project, and taking the time to comment and provide feedback. To answer your questions: a & b) Groups are diverse -- mixed age, mixed gender, and mixed levels of strengths and challenges. Typically, Buddy Circles are 4-6 students, though we have gone larger or smaller if warranted. All of our new students, 1st-grade and older, participate in Buddy Circle, as their easily-identifiable need is that they are new to our school and traditions. This also avoids the idea that Buddy Circles are a stigma and assigned specifically to students with obvious struggles. Students can self-identify as wanting a Buddy Circle for a variety of reasons -- struggling with social relationships, classroom routines, etc..., and teachers and parents have also made requests for Buddy Circles on behalf of a student. Typically, I have been a co-facilitator with at least one of their classroom teachers, though now that we have been at this for a while, many of our teachers will host and facilitate Buddy Circles in partnerships. b cont.) As part of our framework, the first meeting consists of conversations about the expectations and purpose of participating in a Buddy Circle. Various questions are posed to encourage dialogue about empathy, confidentiality, respect, and trust. Thus far, students have honored that "What happens in a Buddy Circle stays in a Buddy Circle." We review at length the purpose and value of honoring the personal information and struggles that others may share. c)Though we have a goal that every student will experience a Buddy Circle, if not several, in their tenure at our school, the program is voluntary. Although a student has yet to request they not participate, less than 2 parents have asked that their child not participate for privacy reasons. d) I do not yet know of a school or agency implementing this type of peer-mentorship and collaborate problem-solving in this capacity.
Thank you again for your feedback, and allowing me to further describe our initiative.
I love that you are including physical education. We just completed our own Total Wellness project, in which we linked physical activity, nutrition and sleep to mental health and relationships. I am excited to see what comes of this!